Seeking to protect "a unique group of young immigrants who have placed their trust in both you as their president and us as their lawmakers," a group of House Democrats on Wednesday beseeched outgoing President Barack Obama to pardon so-called "Dreamers" before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
Sixty Democratic lawmakers signed the letter, which was spearheaded by U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.).
According to a statement from Lofgren's office:
This follows a letter sent last month to President Obama which asked him to protect this group of immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and signed up for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and which was misinterpreted by the White House as a call to provide them legal status. The new letter clarifies that the pardon strategy, which does not bestow legal status, is an urgent plea at a time when fear of President-elect Trump's campaign promise of a deportation force is being sown throughout congressional districts around the country.
"We believe that this action is critical, although it does not create legal status, because for many Dreamers it could clear a path to a legal status that already exists under current law," the letter reads. "Providing protection and stability for immigrants is a shared goal, especially at a time when fear and uncertainty in our communities is at an all-time high."
The pardon could apply to as many as 750,000 young people who have come forward to register under the DACA initiative—one of many of Obama's executive orders that Trump has threatened to undo. Another effort to protect Dreamers, the Sanctuary Campus movement, has been picking up steam since its launch last month.
As Politico wrote on Tuesday, shuttering DACA could mean that "hundreds of thousands of young people who've spent most of their lives in the U.S. could be thrown out of work, with some losing the ability to pay for school."
Also Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered a separate letter signed by 14 mayors from across the country asking Trump to protect Dreamers by keeping DACA in place.
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"These are dreamers who are pursuing the American dream and we should embrace them instead of doing a bait-and-switch," Emanuel said after meeting with Trump in New York City Wednesday morning.
In an interview with Time magazine published this week, Trump reportedly said he plans to "work something out" on Dreamers. "We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud," he said. "They got brought here at a very young age, they've worked here, they've gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they're in never-never land because they don't know what's going to happen."
However, Politico noted:
The interview notes that the president-elect did not back off his promise from the campaign trail to rescind Obama's executive actions. And without details, it's difficult to divine exactly what policy Trump would support once he is sworn in and has to face this issue.
His selection for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), is also a staunch opponent not only of Obama's executive actions on immigration but of legalizing those who are in the United States illegally.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan effort is brewing in the U.S. Senate to protect Dreamers. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who are leading this charge, said Wednesday they were "encouraged" by Trump's comments, which they claimed "present an opportunity to do the right thing for more than 744,000 young people who grew up here."
Defending DACA in a late-November op-ed, former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Janet Napolitano said that thanks to DACA, "there are nearly three-quarters of a million Dreamers who no longer have to constantly fear an encounter with an immigration enforcement agent. Instead, they can live, study, and work freely."